Village housing plan defeated by one vote

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A housing developer is to launch an appeal after its bid for 37 homes in Bolton-le-Sands was dramatically rejected.

Oakmere Homes confirmed it would fight refusal of the scheme, which saw Lancaster city councillors back residents’ concerns and go against their own planners’ advice to grant consent.

They had recommended that, subject to 31 conditions, the proposal for a mix of two-storey homes, flats and bungalows on land 400 metres off Coastal Road, by the canal, be approved. But, after a tense two-hour town hall debate, the application was thrown out by eight votes to seven, sparking cheers from villagers.

Oakmere Homes managing director Chris Middlebrook accused the eight councillors of being ‘swayed by a vocal minority’, adding: “We are naturally very disappointed that the council rejected plans for the development by such a narrow margin, because an appeal will inevitably involve both parties in a great deal of expense and delay the start of building on the site.”

Opponents argued there was no clear need for more housing in the parish, given the number of vacant properties nearby, and that the triangular piece of land in question was the village’s last remaining greenfield site.

Other arguments included demand being placed on Bolton-le-Sands Primary School, which resident Jeanette Elliot said did not have capacity, and a 1,000-signature petition.

Planning agent Alastair Skelton, for Oakmere Homes, said Lancaster faced ‘extreme challenges’ in developing new homes - and council officials said the new housing would help address the wider district’s long-term shortfall in land supply.

Officers concluded the area was suitably located in the ‘built-up’ area of Bolton-le-Sands and Highways chiefs, the Environment Agency and Natural England voiced no objections.

But in the face of fierce public opposition, including from the parish council, the recommendation to grant was defeated on the grounds of losing the green open space, concerns over drainage, the developer committing to making 30 per cent of the homes affordable, not the 40 per cent the council’s policies state, and worries over so-called ‘piecemeal development’ - gradual building on a site where the visual impact is only realised slowly over time.

But with the land earmarked for housing in the council’s development plan and a pending appeal, the saga looks far from over. Mr Middlebrook added: “We’re confident we presented a very strong case.”